Mountain Views News     Logo: MVNews     Saturday, November 17, 2012

MVNews this week:  Page 3


Mountain Views-News Saturday, November 17, 2012 

Sierra Madre Search and Rescue

A THANKSGIVING GIFT............One Hikers Story by Fred Thomas

 I have a lot to be thankful for 
every day, but after last Monday, 
I have a really big item to add to 
that list.

 It all started rather innocently a 
few weeks ago. While socializing 
with the early morning drop-off 
parents at my children’s school, 
a father had mentioned that he 
and others planned a hike to the 
observatory at the top of Mount 
Wilson on Veteran’s Day. Not 
wanting to be overshadowed I 
quickly bantered that I had always 
wanted to hike that range. I was 
so confident in my statement 
that I hardly noticed the pontific 
looks of concern from the small 
gathering of my friends. After 
all, when once asked what kind 
of physical shape I was in, I 
replied, “asymmetric”. However, 
the challenge was accepted and I 
had found myself in that all too 
familiar position of biting off more 
that I should be chewing.

 As word spread amongst our 
tight-knit community, words of 
encouragement were matched 
evenly with strong warnings and 
admonitions. “You won’t make 
it to First Water”, was the most 
common response followed by 
uncontrolled laughter at the mere 
mental image of me attempting 
such an aggressive goal. When 
asked if I had trained for the 
hike I replied affirmatively by 
mentioning that I had in fact 
walked from Sunnyside Ave & 
Highland to Kirsten Court and 
back on the previous day… again 
with the laughter. My wife gently 
reminded me that the last time I 
went for a hike, ‘Wham’ was still 
together. At any rate nothing could 
change my mind. As a military 
veteran and fierce competitor I 
was confident that I could pull 
together a “leisurely stroll” to a 
telescope. After arranging for 
most of the needed supplies (more 
on that later), and a good night’s 
rest, I grabbed the family dog and 
off we set at 6:00am en route to 
Lizzie’s Trail Inn. 

 At 6:30am my trusty canine 
companion and I signed into the 
trail log. By the way I noticed the 
last entry was several days earlier 
and I am sure that the Search 
and Rescue folks would want all 
users to sign in (side note). As I 
began the hike to a breathtaking 
sunrise, music blasting in my ears 
trying to escape the reality that I 
was on a lone mission to futility, 
my ego was instantly battered by 
the number of senior citizens that 
were bouncing up the side of the 
mountain like gazelles. Each one 
smiled and greeted me with looks 
that seem to simultaneously evoke 
support and fear for my journey. 

I must admit that I was less than 
thrilled to discover that “First 
Water” had nothing to do with 
refreshments. In fact, I think it 
should be renamed, “Turn back 
here if you know what’s good for 
you”! But by now my leg cramps 
seemed to force me to continue to 
walk up-range. Doubt had turned 
into stubbornness as I pushed on 
through to Orchard Camp. 

Orchard Camp is a gorgeous and 
serene place and by this time I 
thought “This looks like a great 
place to die” as by now, I had no 
credible feelings in my lower 
extremities. But my steady diet 
of protein bars and water seemed 
urge the beast in me to continue. 
At this point my dog began to look 
quite concerned and assumed we 
must be lost. 

 My first guardian angel appeared 
about a half mile from Manzanita 
Ridge. I had engulfed my last 
drop of water and was seriously 
considering waiting until Search 
and Rescue found me in a fetal 
position on the trail. But instead 
I was met by four friendly hikers 
on their way down the mountain 
that took pity on me and gave me 
a bottle of water. When I reached 
the ridge, I saw a large wooden 
bench that look like the perfect 
place slip into a coma, but alas 
another hiker beat me to the spot.

By now, there was no turning back, 
I was only 2.5 miles to the summit 
and I was out of water again so I 
needed to get to the observatory 
just to rehydrate. By this time I 
began to understand why people 
should hike in groups, someone 
has to survive to tell the story. As I 
reached the Toll Road, exhaustion 
became a fond memory as I was 
way beyond that at this point. Out 
of nowhere, a man shot past me on 
a mountain bike. I am ashamed to 
admit that it took all the restraint 
in my being to keep from pushing 
this young man off his bike just for 
being in such remarkable shape. 
(Just kidding but I was jealous!)

 At 1:10pm a mere 6 hours 40 
minutes later, I reached the 
Observatory. Too tired to do 
much more than monopolize the 
water faucet, eat a sandwich and 
take a few pictures. I lost most of 
the water I took in as tears formed 
in my eyes when the realization 
that I still needed to get home 
sank in. By now, my dog was 
not acknowledging my existence 
and tried to pretend she was a 
stray in the hopes that one of the 
smart people that drove up to the 
summit would adopt her. 

 I was the first person to leave the 
summit, but by Sunset I was the 
last person on the range and had 
not yet reached 1st water. It was 
clear to me that I would have to 
hike the last few miles in the dark. 
I had no flashlight (a flashlight 
may be a good item to pack). 
Already later that anticipated, I 
noticed a flashlight coming up the 
mountain to which a kind lady 
asked, “Are you Fred?” I replied, 
“Yes are you Search and Rescue?” 
She informed me that she was 
not SAR but that my wife was at 
Lizzie’s Inn and was worried and 
angry. To that I suggested that it 
might be safer for me to spend 
the night on the mountain than 
to return. About 1 mile from the 
trail start, two young men that 
had long since passed me down 
the mountain had returned with 
flashlights after speaking to my 
wife. She had assured them that 
I did not have the intellectual 
capacity to remember to pack a 
flashlight (I am paraphrasing of 
course, this is a family paper). The 
two young men seemed to have a 
calming presence on my dog, as 
she finally felt like someone she 
was with knew what they were 

 By the ½ mile mark my legs were 
noodles and I could only take a few 
steps at a time. We were greeted by 
a wonderful couple that had heard 
of the hiker in distress (I guess 
that was me) and raced back with 
water, food, flashlights, and a new 
dog. I’m not sure what my dog 
thought of getting a replacement 
but I was thrilled to have such 
wonderful people come to my aid. 
We eventually made it to Lizzie’s 
Inn at 6:30pm, 12 hours after we 
began and so exhausted that even 
my hair hurt.

 A week later, feeling has returned 
to my legs, our family dog does 
not run away when she sees me, 
and I can cross the observatory off 
of my bucket list. However I have a 
few tips for novice hikers planning 
this trip:

1. Regulars on the trail will 
tell you that everything is only 
20 minutes away. Every time I 
asked someone how far I was to 
the next checkpoint, 20 minutes 
was always the answer. What 
I realized is that it is twenty 
minutes away for those people in 
2. Bring water…lots of 
water. Believe me running out of 
water on a hike sucks.
3. Hike with a group. That 
way you can mask your crying in 
their laughter.
4. Make arrangements to 
be picked up at the top of the 
mountain, don’t be a hero.
5. Whenever possible…take 
a tour bus.

I now understand why people 
seem to enjoy hiking. In between 
the pain, cramps, dehydration, 
and dizziness there were moments 
of absolute beauty and tranquility. 
It was as if the world’s problems 
were non-existent and for every 
challenge I brought into the hike, 
I left with great clarity and a new 
sense of direction. Hikers are 
some of the nicest people I have 
ever met; each one with their own 
journey and goals, and willing to 
help a complete stranger on the 
same path. To those that took 
it upon themselves to help me 
complete my journey, you have my 
eternal gratitude and respect.

During the month of October, Sierra Madre Search and Rescue (SMSR) responded to half a 
dozen calls for assistance. A selected set of calls are described below.

Injured Hiker, Chantry Flat/Big Santa Anita Canyon: Sierra Madre Search and Rescue 
responded to reports of an injured hiker near Hermit Falls. Rescuers arrived on scene to 
find a hiker suffering from a potential ankle fracture. Given the nature of the injuries and 
possible complications associated with a helicopter evacuation, a ground evacuation was 
initiated and the subject was wheeled out ~1.5 miles to an ambulance waiting at the trailhead. 

Mutual Aid Request: Missing Hiker, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park: SMSR 
received a request from the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) to assist 
the National Park Service (NPS) in the search for a missing hiker in the Taboose Pass/Split 
Mountain area of the park. The hiker, Larry Conn, was reported overdue from a multi-day 
backpacking trip in the area. SMSR joined other SAR resources in an expanded search effort 
that included assignments in remote areas of the park. Crews were inserted by helicopter 
and spent several days looking for the missing man. Team members also filled roles within 
the incident management team overseeing the search. At this time, the subject remains 
missing and search efforts have been scaled back. 

Rescue, Bailey Canyon: An early morning hike resulted in SMSR responding with the 
Sierra Madre Fire Department (SMFD) to rescue a hiker who had taken a ~100 foot fall off 
the trail in Bailey Canyon. Rescuers established a command post near the debris basin at 
the mouth of the canyon and sent crews up the trail to effect the rescue. SMFD paramedics 
provided stabilizing treatment to the injured hiker while SMSR personnel packaged him in 
a litter. After a short wheel out the subject was loaded into SMFD’s rescue ambulance and 
transported to the hospital.

Readers often see reference to a “litter” and an evacuation technique known as a “wheel out” 
and may not be familiar with the term. A litter is a basket-like stretcher designed to be used 
in difficult or hazardous terrain – like the mountains. The litter may be wheeled, carried 
by hand, lifted or lowered by rope or hoisted by helicopter. Once a person is strapped into 
the litter they can be safely evacuated by the techniques above. Given the rough terrain and 
narrow trails on our local mountains, a specially designed frame and ATV wheel is fitted to 
the litter. This allows a smoother and safer evacuation since the subject’s weight is carried 
by the wheel rather than by the rescuers. SMSR’s own Russ Anderson was a key developer 
of one of the modern litter wheel designs that is used around the world for SAR. 

For 60 years the all-volunteer Sierra Madre Search and Rescue team has been responding 
to calls for help in the local mountains and beyond. Funded entirely by private donations, 
SMSR provides a range of public programs on wilderness safety in addition to its search and 
rescue activities. The Team never charges for any of its services. 

For more information, including how to arrange a wilderness safety demonstration for your 
school or group, visit

Sierra Madre Police Blotter

Period Covering November 5-11, 2012

Monday November 5, 2012

An officer observed the driver of a vehicle talking on a cell phone. After detaining the driver for the 
violation, the officer determined that the driver had also been drinking and displayed obvious signs 
of intoxication. The driver (male, 51 years of age) was subsequently arrested for DUI.


Wednesday November 7, 2012

At 2am, a vehicle travelling west on Orange Grove Avenue was observed committing several traffic 
violations. After stopping the vehicle, the officer found multiple open alcohol containers in the vehicle 
and determined that the driver had been drinking. The driver (male, 58 years of age) was determined 
to be intoxicated and was arrested for DUI. 

A residential burglary occurred in the 00 block of Suffolk Avenue. An unknown suspect(s) entered 
the residence through an unlocked sliding glass door, ransacked the entire house and defaced some 
personal property items. The suspect(s) then forced the toilets to run constantly causing flooding in 
the house. The resident is currently compiling a list of the items taken.